tender Comet

“Tenderfoot”. For a young suburban lad in 1971, Scouting was a means to learn about the outdoors, camping, teamwork, building character, and developing self-confidence. A novice demonstrated a few skills such as camping basics, some a few conditioning tests, and some Scout lore, and became a Tenderfoot. Of course, other aspects of being a novice included a few finger cuts (resulting from improper use of pocket knives), at least one itchy rash from walking into poison ivy, and a few blisters from too-new hiking shoes or from wearing them with thin socks. With age and experience, such novice incidents become less frequent.

Fortunately, I tend to avoid plants that cause skin rashes, or walk unprotected. And my inclination to activities that have an Emergency Room visit a possibility are rarely acted upon. However, the Pandemic of 2020, has limited my adventures with the dogs to walks around the neighborhood “buffer zone” we used to call “Rattlesnake Mountain”. I think after the housing development was built up there the gophers relocated to our yards but the rattlesnakes must have packed and moved to Arizona.

While we had cool weather and rain until this week, the area wilts in temperatures averaging in the 90s F (above 32 C) from April until October. Cacti and drought-resistant plants do well in this part of the county. While the walking, sniffing and greenery are all very nice, it is that part about cacti that Comet will not easily overlook. Just past the entry to the hillside, a few small Cholla cacti had taken root a few years ago. They were easily overlooked in the dry weather for a couple years. After the considerable rain we had this year, the cholla are robust and spreading. Cholla cactus, are called “jumping cactus”, a well-deserved nickname. As unforgiving as poison ivy, easily detached segments of cholla will embed in animal fur – or catch a peeing dog’s paw.

the desert, not San Diego is where one expects cholla cactus. Image via SanDiegoReader

I am the one relied upon to pull the cholla segment – a laceration hand grenade – without tools or gloves. It was not a pleasant task, but improvised and got the pricker loose. And what was Dexter doing during all this? Probably learning from his brother’s misstep. Like any veteran Boy Scout, both Man and Dog will recall that particular spot on our future walks. Neither dog may choose to pee on that bush. And I will probably in future carry a Leatherman in my pocket. Even old Boy Scouts remember the motto, “Be Prepared“.


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